Pint's baseball return brings former top pick to 'Topes - Albuquerque Journal

Pint’s baseball return brings former top pick to ‘Topes

Albuquerque Isotopes pitcher Riley Pint sits in the bullpen during Tuesday’s game at Isotopes Park. (Mike Sandoval/For the Journal)

Apparently Riley Pint enjoys baseball more than rec league softball in Kansas.

That’s not to say he wasn’t killing it on that softball field, though, having played on it last year after filing his retirement papers with Major League Baseball at the tender age of 23.

“He jokes with me he was having fun playing in a beer league back in Kansas – and tries to tell me he was a pretty good shortstop,” said Chris Forbes, Director of Player Development for the Colorado Rockies.

“… But we’re glad he’s back with us – pitching.”

A year later, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Pint made his Triple-A debut on Wednesday night with the Albuquerque Isotopes – resuming what was once considered a can’t-miss path to the big leagues after being drafted No. 4 overall in 2016 by the Colorado Rockies out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, Kansas.

Wednesday, Pint threw a scoreless sixth inning in a 5-1 Isotopes loss to the visiting Reno Aces.

While the statline wasn’t one to wow anyone – one inning, 21 pitches, one hit, two walks, a wild pitch and a strikeout – Forbes called it “a big step.”

Pint’s first five seasons in professional baseball were a mix of injuries, control problems and glimpses of the elite arm that had scouts clamoring over him and had the Rockies giving him a $4.8 million signing bonus as a teenager.

But things never clicked.

“It was just a long journey with a lot of different things (going on),” Pint said of his playing career before deciding to step away in 2021. “It was really nice to just take a step back and kind of just relax and just see how life is without baseball.”

Pint’s problems, he realized, weren’t with baseball, but with his mind-set about baseball.

“I think I needed it to get back to having fun – just kind of stepping back and seeing baseball for what it is,” Pint said. “I used to look at it as a job. … Now it’s like, nobody’s forcing me to do anything. I’m here because I want to be here, and I want to play baseball.”

And while Pint was rediscovering that love in Kansas, Forbes was hearing rumblings about the former prospect.

“I heard he had been keeping in touch with (all his old teammates), and then I had a buddy in Kansas City who had seen him throw a bullpen (session),” Forbes said. “I thought, he’s still got the itch. He just needed a blow.”

Pint says Forbes visiting him, in Kansas and caring about him more as a person than a pitcher, made a huge impact.

Isotopes manager Warren Schaeffer, who managed a 19-year-old Pint in Single-A Asheville in 2017, said he’s just happy to see the kid smiling again.

“It’s good, man, because I remember a kid and in 2017, that was really grinding through it all and not having much fun doing it,” said Schaeffer.

As for the pitching, well, Schaeffer likes that, too.

“He’s got the stuff,” Schaeffer said. “… You’ll see upper 90s heater with a wipeout slider and a nasty changeup.”

In 38 appearances at Double-A Hartford this season, Pint was 2-1 with a 4.64 ERA with 55 strikeouts and 29 walks in 422/3 innings.

“He has some of the best stuff in baseball,” Hartford and now Isotopes teammate Michael Toglia said. “He’s got Cy Young level stuff. It’s disgusting. I mean, his slider makes people look silly.”

As for Pint, he said the big leagues are still his dream, but for now he’s just enjoying being a baseball player anywhere again.

“I’m glad I’m back and I’m glad that I’m pitching again, because this is something that not everybody gets to do,” Pint said. “You can’t take it for granted.”

‘TOPES THURSDAY: Vs. Reno, 6:35 p.m., Isotopes Park, 610 AM/95.9 FM

PROBABLES: Aces RHP Drey Jameson (4-7, 6.58) vs. Isotopes RHP Brandon Gold (4-5, 6.89)

WEDNESDAY: The bats went cold for the home team and the visiting Reno Aces cruised to a comfortable 5-1 win in front of an announced Isotopes Park crowd of 7,287.

Albuquerque had one extra-base hit — a solo home run in the fourth inning by C Carlos Perez. All five Isotopes runs in the first two games of the current six-game series have been off solo home runs (Albuquerque won 4-3 on Tuesday).

For Reno, CF Corbin Carroll was 3-for-5 in the leadoff spot and 1B Dominic Canzone drove in three runs.

BOX SCORE: Reno 5, Albuquerque 1

STANDINGS: Pacific Coast League

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